Meeting with Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin
Belarus maintains interfaith peace and accord, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on 13 March.
“My policy on this issue and the policy of the entire Belarusian state rely on one thesis: every person has a right to choose his way to God, to the Church. It is his right and no one can infringe on it. We prevent attempts to favor one church over the others and to destabilize the interfaith situation in Belarus,” the Belarusian leader said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that as far as the interfaith cooperation is concerned, the situation in Belarus relies on absolute peace and understanding. “I can openly say that we are proud of it,” the President noted. In his words, Belarus is home to representatives of about 30 religious denominations, and the largest of them are the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. “They have a huge role in preserving the interfaith peace and cooperation in Belarus. Their role is invaluable,” the Belarusian head of state believes.
Over the past 20 years the number of Roman Catholic parishes in Belarus has increased almost four times, the state provided over 300 buildings and religious sites to them. According to the President, the need of the Roman-Catholic Church in church buildings is satisfied by almost 98% in Belarus. Other religious denominations in Belarus cannot boast such a level. Perhaps, this level can be hardly seen in other countries, the Belarusian leader said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also spoke about the training of Catholic priests and expressed eagerness to have more local Catholic priests in Belarus. “We understand that this is not solely the Vatican’s issue. We understand that in order to have Catholic priests of the Belarusian origin we need to train them in Belarus,” the head of state said. He added that he initiated the construction of the educational academy in Belarus.
“There are a number of issues, not problems, which we can resolve today, and it will benefit the entire Catholic community and the Belarusian society,” the President stressed.
Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin conveyed greetings from the Pope to the Belarusian President. He noted that his visit aims to bolster contacts with Belarusian public administration bodies. “I am glad to hear that Belarus is happy with the role that the Roman Catholic community plays in the life of the country,” the Cardinal said.
Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko gave the Cardinal a man-made icon of the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a gift to Pope Francis. The icon was made using the Belarusian Sozh filigree technique. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the icon is valuable for it was created by common people. “This is a proof of our interfaith peace and harmony,” the Belarusian head of state said.